Italian-American Politics – Part 2
In part one of this blog we saw how over the last one hundred years the role of Italian-Americans has become far more prominent in American society. Italian-Americans now are at the very pinnacle of elite groups within the U.S. They hold positions of power in industry, the church, academia, the media and of course politics. Italian-Americans no longer live up to the old stereotypes, blue-collar workers that love opera and shout from their apartment windows in Italian slums. They are very much upwardly mobile and extremely conscientious to get on in life and to succeed.
Blue Collar Workers
The Census Bureau has released figures that dismiss the old claims as Italians as blue-collar workers. In fact, Italian-Americans are now over the national averages for white-collar jobs in America. They have moved out of traditional Italian homes and communities and gone to live in the suburbs, the size of the average Italian-American family has also shrunk to the national average.
A spokesman for the Census Bureau stated that it has taken three generations for Italian-Americans to change their circumstances. The first immigrants were poor laborers but they were instrumental at providing an education for their children.
Italians are now at a par with non-Italians in the upper parts of cultural and professional occupations. They have achieved this whilst still clinging on to their old traditions, and although things like language have made way the close-knit family can still be seen at celebrations etc.
The Big Difference with Italian Immigrants and Others
The Italian immigrants experienced a big difference in assimilation into American society than say the Irish or Eastern European immigrants. The Irish had the assistance of the Roman Catholic Church and became integrated with Democratic politics. The Eastern European Jews used business and education to elevate their status, but the Italians had nobody to rely on but themselves.
Education is at the core of the slow rise of Italian-Americans into American society and the eventual push into mainstream American politics. And as second and third generations had better economic status the family was sacrificed for individual enhancement. Italians had moved into American middle-class and were not about to let it go. This saw the migration of Italians to other cities across America within corporations.
The Political Situation
The first Italian-American to reach the House of Representatives was Peter Rodino in 1948, and there were none in the senate. Mr Rodino served eighteen terms and now is the elder statesman for twenty-nine other Italian-American representatives and this includes another four senators.
New York alone has an Italian-American Governor, a Lieutenant Governor and a junior Senator. As a group Italian-Americans have always been considered as Democrats from the working classes. But recently this idea has eroded and there is evidence that the majority are now middle-class and vote on family issues.
Perhaps the biggest seed change of Italian-Americans concerning their role in American politics is the way they now view themselves. Gone are the old restrictions due to immigrant stereotypes and a final acceptance into American society has elevated their thinking into what lies ahead in terms of position and political power.